BATON ROUGE -- Senior pitcher Jared Bradford struck out eight batters in six innings and sophomore second baseman Ryan Schimpf recorded a career high four hits and scored three runs as the Tigers cruised past Indiana, 7-1, at a chilly Alex Box Stadium.
The Tigers (1-0) won their seventh straight season opener dating back to the 2002 season. The game drew a paid crowd of 8,675, the second-largest paid attendance figure in LSU history.
Bradford, a preseason All-American selection, had an outstanding outing allowing only one run on six hits in six innings of work. Head coach Paul Mainieri said he knew his senior starter would come through on opening night.
“That’s why I gave him the ball on opening night,” Mainieri said. “The players love to play behind him because they know he is going to throw the ball over the plate. They know he is going to have poise and composure out there, and they know he is going to make big pitches when he needs to. I thought it was vintage Bradford tonight.”
Schimpf, who finished 4 -for- 4, reached base in every plate appearance. The sophomore leadoff hitter set the table for the Tigers offensively, collecting three singles, a triple and a walk.
“Ryan Schimpf is as improved a player as we have,” Mainieri said. “There were things that he had as weaknesses last year that I felt he needed to improve on, particularly hitting the ball to the opposite field and putting the ball in play with two strikes.
“He put the ball in play, and something good happened for him. I thought he was a real sparkplug for us tonight.”
LSU jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when Schimpf scored on an RBI single by left fielder Blake Dean.
Two innings later, the Tigers broke the game open with a four-run third inning to take the lead, 5-0. Following a leadoff triple by Schimpf, centerfielder Jared Mitchell drove an RBI single past third baseman Evan Crawford. Then, after an RBI single by first baseman Matt Clark, junior college transfer Matt Gaudet drilled an RBI double into the gap in right centerfield to plate Clark. Right fielder Leon Landry knocked in the fifth run with a triple after an unsuccessful dive allowed the ball to skip past Indiana centerfielder Andrew Means.
Meanwhile, Bradford continued to dominate on the mound. After giving up a leadoff single in the top of the fourth inning to right fielder Kipp Schutz, the senior from Hueytown, Ala. bounced right back to strike out the side.
“I thought he was really outstanding today and set the tone for the game,” Mainieri added.
Catcher Sean Ochinko added the sixth run of the game with a double down the third base line to score Schimpf for the third time. Third baseman Michael Hollander, who moved over from shortstop this year, beat out an infield single to drive in Gaudet for the seventh run.
Hoosiers starter Tyler Tufts (0-1) was tabbed with the loss. The junior right-hander surrendered 12 hits and allowed seven earned runs in four innings.
The season opener could not have gone much better for the Tiger squad. The top four hitters in the order, all sophomores, combined for 11 hits and drove in three runs. Mainieri thinks the experience the group gained as freshmen has really paid dividends.
“We bit the bullet last year, and we played them all regularly,” Mainieri said. “They had some inconsistencies, but I knew it would pay off this year and beyond. They came back a lot more confident, a lot stronger and they all set the tone.”
The season-opening series continues Saturday at 1 p.m. and concludes Sunday at 11 a.m. Saturday’s contest will only be broadcast in the Baton Rouge area (WTGE 107.3 FM) due to the LSU men’s basketball game against Ole Miss at 5 p.m., but live audio and video will be available to members of the Geaux Zone at www.LSUsports.net.
Junior right-hander Jordan Brown is scheduled to take the mound for the Tigers against sophomore lefty Matt Bashore.
LSU 7, Indiana 1 (Feb 22, 2008 at Baton Rouge, La.)
Indiana............. 000 001 000 - 1 8 1 (0-1)
LSU................. 104 110 00X - 7 15 0 (1-0)
Pitchers: Indiana - Tufts, Tyler; Agnew, Anthony(5); Leiendecker, Kyle(7); Cera, Anthony(8).
LSU - Jared Bradford; Jordan Nicholson(7); Austin Ross(9).
Win-Jared Bradford(1-0) Loss-Tufts, Tyler(0-1) T-2:58 A-8675
Actual attendance: 5,510
Paid attendance is 2nd-largest in Alex Box history.
Tufts faced 1 batter in the 5th.